The black widow is one of the most terrifying spiders around. The “popular belief” is that one bite from a black widow spider will drop you dead. They are thought to mate and kill, and have been used as a basis for terrifying movies about deadly, psychotic women. These spiders are simply the stuff of nightmares. But when it comes to reality, a good question to ask is: how true are these beliefs?
The black widow does not always kill its mate after mating. This practice was observed in a laboratory where a multitude of black widow spiders were kept in very cramped conditions. In the open, when a male can escape and if the female is not that hungry, he usually lives.
Unless someone has a pre-existing condition, the bite of the black widow spider is usually not fatal. However, they are one of the most venomous spiders around. The bite itself doesn’t hurt much, but the venom is very painful and the pain can last several days.
Are they found in Florida?
Yes – black widow spiders can be found in Florida. In fact, the southern black widow can be throughout all of Florida. They have the characteristic red hourglass marking on the black abdomen. The black widow is not the only one in the area, though. Florida has brown widows as well.
The brown widow is more common than the black widow. They also have the red hourglass marking and traditional shape of the black widow, but are brown in color. They can range all the way from light beige to dark brown to multi-colored.
Where can they be found?
These spiders like private, sheltered spots like empty buckets, sheds, mail boxes, under the eaves in the house, or even in the corner of doorways or window sills. They especially like places that are not disturbed, so if you store your yard equipment in the shed for the winter, you may actually encourage them to build their webs there.
What to do if you see one
These spiders are not aggressive spiders. They usually bite in defense of their eggs or if they are pushed up against the skin. For example, if a spider has made its home in your shoe and you go to put your shoes on, the spider will bite you out of fear.
If you see one, it’s best to get rid of it. You can vacuum it, squish it or spray with insecticide. If you vacuum, seal up and get rid of the vacuum bag immediately. To prevent spiders, keep things clean and uncluttered. Sweep around windows and doorways and be sure to sweep through unused areas of your house and yard.
If you think you’ve been bit, it’s best to get medical assistance right away. There is antivenin available that can help reduce the length and duration of symptoms.